Climate

Understanding the climates of earth and other planets represents one of the great intellectual challenges of our era, and in the case of Earth, one of great practical significance. Progress in attaining such an understanding requires the application of knowledge and techniques from many scientific disciplines, including the physics of radiative and convective heat transfer, geophysical and computational fluid dynamics, cloud microphysics, atmospheric chemistry, geochemistry, and biology. PAOC faculty, students, postdoctoral fellows and research scientists are actively engaged in research on many facets of the climate system.

Atmospheric processes are central to many of the forcings and feedbacks that determine the magnitude of climate change. The atmosphere is also central to many of the possible impacts of climate change, such as changes in the intensities of tropical and extratropical storms and changes in the character of precipitation.

The vast majority of our understanding of the Earth, its oceans, atmospheres, and life, comes from the most recent 15% of its history. PAOC Deep Time research seeks to shed light on the first 85% of Earth’s history using a wide array of techniques, and incorporating sub-disciplines as wide ranging as quantitative modeling, paleontology, organic geochemistry, sedimentology, and astrobiology.

Understanding the climates of earth and other planets represents one of the great intellectual challenges of our era, and in the case of Earth, one of great practical significance. Progress in attaining such an understanding requires the application of knowledge and techniques from many scientific disciplines, including the physics of radiative and convective heat transfer, geophysical and computational fluid dynamics, advanced thermodynamics, cloud microphysics, atmospheric chemistry, geochemistry, and biology. The pursuit is not for the faint of heart, but the few willing to take them on find the intellectual challenges deeply rewarding.

As the scientific dialogue on the degree of climate warming continues, the critical question surrounding potential global change has now become: How do we rise to the challenge of mitigating and adapting to substantial human interference of the climate system? PAOC researchers work in interdisciplinary teams to address the challenge of balancing worldwide economic growth with realistic and practical environmental stewardship.

Climate modeling within PAOC is wide-ranging, encompassing algorithmic, computational, physical, biogeochemical and technological innovations, drawing together elements of computational fluid dynamics, statistics, meteorology, oceanography and computer science.

Ice

The cryosphere is one of the least understood components in the global climate system, in terms of observations, theory, and comprehensive modeling capabilities. It is also the component that has exhibited some of the largest changes over the last few decades.

The total amount and distribution of water in the atmosphere is very sensitive to temperature such that global warming is expected to lead to substantial changes in all aspects of the water cycle.

The ocean state is both a consequence and cause of the climate and its changes we experience through time. Understanding the ways in which the ocean interacts with the remainder of the climate system—including the atmosphere, cryosphere, and biosphere—is one of the most interesting and challenging of scientific problems. These changes are so important that scientists at MIT and its partners at WHOI and elsewhere bring to bear all of the available tools required to study the system: observations at sea, and from satellites, theory, statistics, and models ranging from the analytical to some of the largest and most sophisticated of any computer model in any field.

“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” -Winston Churchill

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